Just wishing to be blinded – Songs Of Innocence (2014)

No Line On The Horizon was a sales disappointment, but while it’s not a great album I’m not sure its relative failure had much to do with its quality. It’s more likely that in 2009 any album was going to have disappointing sales, even one by U2. This is supported by the tour that followed, U2360, which went on to become the highest-grossing tour of all time. It obviously spooked U2, because they clearly felt that something drastic was necessary to keep them from fading away completely.  Continue reading

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is Amazing

Smash! WHOOAA-OH-OHH!

I got a Nintendo Gamecube a couple of years into college, and one of the first games I bought was Super Smash Bros. Melee. I’m not generally a big fighting game guy, but I am a big Nintendo guy, and it ended up being an outstanding purchase. It singlehandedly justified the not-inconsiderable cost of buying a couple more controllers, because it was always easy to find a few more people who were ready to put down the books and spend an hour or two beat the tar out of each other in the form of beloved Nintendo characters.
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I was born to sing for you – No Line On The Horizon (2009)

Like PopNo Line On The Horizon is a difficult album to pin down. Unlike Pop, I’m not sure that’s in its favor. It feels like there are a number of different albums within it, all competing rather than complementing each other. The question is, how much of a liability is such a scattered approach? There are a lot of rock masterpieces that are such precisely because they are all over the place. But the difference between No Line On The Horizon and, say, something like The Beatles’ White Album is one of overall effect. The White Album ends up being more than the sum of its parts. No Line On The Horizon feels like the product of a band that was afraid to commit to its varied nature, instead sounding like a compromise. Continue reading

The Best Games I Played in 2014

Looking back, 2014 was the year I basically quit playing new games. This was due to a couple of factor, not the least of which was a general sense of chaos in my gaming life between August and November, when most new titles come out. But at least some of it was conscious, because there were a lot of moments when I just decided to play something I already knew instead of whatever the hot game was. That makes me sound a little snooty, as if I’m really proud of the fact that I’m above the lowly activity of playing new games. The truth is that I was better able to find the best way for me to enjoy the hobby, and in my case that meant playing more games that I already owned, or that had already been given enough time for their quality to not be as informed by that early rush of hype. Continue reading

An intellectual tortoise – How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (2004)

So once you’ve made your comeback, where do you go from there? U2 responded to the success of All That You Can’t Leave Behind by doubling down on the bet that people wanted more of that “classic” U2 sound. But how to make it sound different from ATYCLB, which was itself a statement that they were returning to a classic sound? The follow-up, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, embraced U2’s roots to an even greater extent. It races even further into the reaches of the past, showing once and for all that U2’s days of weird experiments and electronic dabbling were done for good. Continue reading

Won and Done

I wanna go back, I gotta go back, to O-HI-O.

I have always thought that my greatest sports memory was watching Ohio State beat Miami in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl. It was a ridiculous game, with numerous lead changes and two overtimes. Ohio State was helped mightily by a pass interference call that I think was legit but sure took a long time to produce a flag. It was one of those razor-thin games that most people expected would be a Miami victory, which was a fair expectation at the time. The Buckeyes had squeaked by everyone that year, including a game-ending interception in the end zone to beat Michigan in the final bout. It really did feel like a “no one believes in us” moment. Continue reading

The last of the rock stars – All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000)

All That You Can’t Leave Behind was, like so many U2 albums, a response to a perceived weakness. There seems to have been another simmering identity crisis within U2 in the late 1990s. After their Pop hangover, the band wanted to regroup quickly and get back in the studio, once again with Eno and Lanois. In the manner that all U2 albums are recorded, the four members basically got in a room and noodled around until songs began to emerge. At one point The Edge began to form the base of what would become “Beautiful Day,” and the story goes that Bono initially balked at it for sounding “too U2.” For a band approaching their 40’s this was of course a ridiculous complaint. Every band has worked themselves into a mindset by that point, and these sessions came hot on the heels of the successful Best of 1980-1990 set, which showed that U2’s more traditional anthemic sound still had relevance. Continue reading

Your Head Asplode – The Battle At Kemble’s Cascade Review

I’m not a game designer, so I’m not really sure what it takes to create a successful board game adaptation of a video game. Do you just take the license and use it as a setting for a solid design? That’s what was done with Railroad Tycoon and Age of Empires III, both by Glenn Drover. Do you work to create a system that emulates the feel of a video game without recreating specific mechanisms? FFG’s Starcraft board game did this to great effect, creating a game that felt like Starcraft even while it never really replicated the mechanical nuances. Or you could do what The Battle At Kemble’s Cascade does, and work hard to recreate the mechanics of the video game in a cardboard form.  Continue reading